cover image Desperate Days: 
Selected Mysteries, Vol. Two

Desperate Days: Selected Mysteries, Vol. Two

Jack Vance. Subterranean (, $45 (568p) ISBN 978-1-59606-463-8

This second collection of Vance crime novels edited by Terry Dowling and Jonathan Strahan (after 2011’s Dangerous Ways) shows Vance to be a highly skilled practitioner of the traditional mystery. The first of the three, The Fox Valley Murders (1966), introduces Sheriff Joe Bain of California’s fictional San Rodrigo County. As acting sheriff following his boss’s unexpected demise, Bain looks into a baffling series of deaths apparently connected with the return of bad seed Ausley Wyett, who’s just served 16 years for the rape-murder of an eighth-grader. People who testified against Wyett have begun getting threatening letters. Once a key clue is revealed at the end, readers will be gratified to go back and see how Vance concealed it in plain sight. Bain made his second and last appearance in The Pleasant Grove Murders (1967), also included. The Dark Ocean (1985), which draws on Vance’s experience on freighters, rounds out the volume. Fans of mysteries with a strong regional flavor will be rewarded. (Oct.)